Saturday, March 15, 2014

Learning curve for linebackers in new UConn system

The process of switching from the 4-3 system UConn has used in recent years to the 3-4 one that Bob Diaco is installing is still in the early stages.

After yesterday's practice Diaco said that the outside linebacker and safety positions are the most difficult ones to master in his defense. At safety UConn returns Andrew Adams and Obi Melifonwu, who combined to start 18 games a season ago. The situation at outside linebacker is a different story.

There are 12 linebackers on UConn's current roster and four of them were listed as defensive ends last season. Of that group, Reuben Frank was the only one to appear in a game as Cole Ormsby, Jalen Stevens and Cameron Stapleton all redshirted a season ago.

"It is a hard transition anyway and a guy like Graham Stewart for example who has played outside linebacker at some point in time in his past looks pretty natural doing some of the jobs and then some of the defensive ends don’t look as natural," Diaco said. "It is still a hard job for Graham who has played it so it is a transition for everyone, it is one of the really challenging positions on our defense to play so if you are asking them to learn some fundamentals of being an outside linebacker, you take on all the verbiage too. They are making the transition just fine but it is hard."

Jefferson Ashiru had 58 tackles during the 2013 season which the same number as the rest of the linebackers on the roster so there is a pretty inexperienced group as seven of the 12 have yet to record a tackle at UConn and some of them dealing with their third defensive coordinator in the last three seasons.

"It is not a big difference but there are definitely challenges," said Marquise Vann, who had 17 tackles in nine games last season. "There are different things that you have to learn, different nuances and we have to take the time to learn but maybe the biggest challenge is shifting to be a different style of defense where now we are learning how to translate that into how to be in a stance.

"They (the converted defensive ends) are doing very well. I feel like we have very intelligent people, very coachable people and we are able to transition, whatever Coach needs us to do we will do it."

Here's a look at UConn's linebackers
Player                          Class Ht Wt     Career tackles   Career games   Career starts
Jefferson Ashiru             JR  6-2 230      66                        21                       11
Chris Britton                  FR 6-1 232       0                          0                         0
Reuben Frank               SR 6-4 246       32                         36                     12 (as fullback)
Jon Hicks                      SO 6-2 233       0                           9                        0
Junior Joseph                FR 6-1 242        0                           0                        0
Cole Ormsby                FR 6-3 249        0                           0                        0
Cam Stapleton              FR  6-4 226       0                           0                        0
Brandon Steg               SR 6-2 221       25                         36                        0
Omaine Stephens         SO 6-3 233         0                          6                        0        
Jalen Stevens                FR 6-3 218        0                            0                       0
Graham Stewart           JR  6-1 227      15                          20                       2
Marquise Vann            JR   6-0 226     21                           19                      3


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